Fashioned by Fred Hawtree in the early 1960s, the course at Le Vaudreuil was acquired in 2008 by Jean-Claude Forestier, head of the Petit Forestier family business which specialises in the rental of refrigerated trucks and employs four thousand people with a turnover of more than €700million in 2018.
According to the owner, his vision for the property can be summarised as: “trying to make the estate a sort of small resort, with our small eight-room hotel telling the story of the Grand Slam. Beside, we now have villas dedicated to tourist golf accommodation, each also telling a great event.”
Working closely with PGA France, the club operates a Golf Court Academy that has all the latest technology and instrument analysis, along with a fitting workshop for putters and wedges. Outside, there are several putting greens, chipping greens and training bunkers.
Altus Performance Europe is a more recent development, welcoming young players through programs such as weekend camps and school holiday camps. Its main objective is to make golfers aware of all the different performance facets such as technical, tactical, physical, mental, lifestyle and equipment.
The course itself is laid out as two returning nines, the shorter outward half measuring 2907 metres and playing to a par of 35, whilst the longer inward half (featuring three par five holes) extends to 3,322 metres, with par rated at 37.
Highlight holes include the very short par three 5th (“Les Vikings”) and the 358-metre 9th (“Richard Coeur de Lion”) which plays to a pronounced back-to front sloping green. On the back nine, the par four 17th (“Famille Raoul Duval”) is a tough hole, with a centre-line bunker hampering the most direct route to the green.
The Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge on the Challenge Tour has been held here since 2013, becoming almost a permanent fixture on the men’s second-tier professional circuit in Europe.
The course at Le Vaudreuil lies between the small towns of Val-de-Reuil and Saint-Etienne-du-Vauvray, within a large loop of the Seine as the river slowly meanders across a fertile landscape on its way to the English Channel at Le Havre. This sort of flat terrain is ideal for growing crops, but it’s not the most interesting landform on which to lay out a golf course.
It’s here that Fred Hawtree set the fairways in two returning nines in 1962, weaving the holes between stands of mature trees in a typical parkland setting. Every hole plays to a raised green, some of which are more elevated than others, with water only ever appearing at the start of the back nine, where the 10th hole begins rather unusually from an island tee box in a small lake to the front of the clubhouse.
It’s all solid, though somewhat uninspiring, stuff at Vaudreuil. But if you want something of a history lesson during your round here, then there’s a little narrative on every tee box, starting with “Prehistoric Vaudreuil” on the 1st and ending with “Marc de la Haye,” the previous owner who built the course originally, on the 18th.
In between these holes, you’ll be entertained by a story that develops from the Bronze Age and the Vikings through an eclectic cast that includes the likes of Charles the Simple, Robert the Magnificent, Philip the Fair and John the Good – I’ve not been entertained by such hokum while waiting to tee off since I last read Pat Ruddy’s tributes to the golfing great and the good on little plaques at The European.
There’s a hint of the outside world in the most easterly part of the property with trains passing on the right side of the hole at the par three 3rd but, in truth, you could be anywhere here within the calm, peaceful surroundings of a very elegant estate. The best is kept until last on the front nine, with the green not only raised but sloping from back to front, which was a very welcome variation to a recurring theme.
The back nine is a lot stronger (and longer with three par fives versus only one on the outward half) and I liked the centre line bunkering on both the 12th and 17th – anything to break up the low-lying, level ground has to be applauded, of course. The par three 16th is easily the best of the four short holes on the card, with a big artificially revetted bunker protecting the front right hand side of the green.
Le Vaudreuil is a great facility with fantastic, up to date golfing amenities but the course itself lags behind. I don’t think Martin Hawtree has been here recently but if he was given the chance to upgrade the layout – especially the bunkering – similar to the work carried out at Les Aisses then this place could easily be as well regarded on the playing front as it is for its instruction and training.